Reader Forum: Moravcsik's Defense of Europe

Andrew Moravcsik: Do you mean that just as Hitler sought to unify Europe through conquest, someone might try this again? I doubt it. Democracies tend not to wage war on each other. Neither do states that are highly interdependent, states without nationalist or ideological grievances, and states with open and transparent relations with one another. In part thanks to the EU, Europe is now democratic, interdependent, almost entirely without nationalist conflicts, and openly cooperating in institutions that are extremely transparent.

Let’s remember that primary and secondary education in Europe is generally better than such education in the U.S.—even in a country like France, with a rather rigid system. So, in part, it is a matter of comparative advantage: Any U.S. edge lies almost exclusively in university education—the industry in which I work. I don’t think it’s primarily a matter of centralization. The U.S. university system is quite decentralized, even competitive—which I think is, on balance, a good thing. But my own view is the real reason for U.S. success is different: you get what you pay for. The U.S. spends almost twice as much per capita on higher education as European countries. This is, in part, because a lot of private U.S. money goes into education. This is what one might expect, since the best American universities have traditionally served the upper classes—with only 3 percent of slots in the best American universities going to students from the lowest quintile of the population, despite honest efforts to broaden the base. But it’s also true that nearly 50 percent of Americans get some sort of university education. Despite its inequities, this system has produced many positive benefits.

Yes, the Balkan crisis was one area in which the Europeans should have, but did not, act—and Europeans could do more with their substantial military resources. But my basic position is more nuanced—not as pro-European as you suggest. As I have written before in NEWSWEEK, countries, like firms, have comparative advantages. Both military and nonmilitary power is required for the West to be effective in the world today: the U.S. has specialized in one sort of power, the Europeans in another. So what I am criticizing is the widespread notion that somehow Europe thereby contributes less. And if Europeans are going to do more to promote global peace and security, I think it’s likely to be in the nonmilitary area.

Today, China is tentatively copying Europe’s commitment to multilateralism, “civilian power” and regional integration. Still, I think only industrialized, democratic states are likely to embark on the sort of full-fledged cooperation Europe has pioneered—so, regional integration will probably look different, and take much longer, on other continents.

If the oil runs out, or the world economy tanks or global warming accelerates, all bets are off—both for Europe and for the U.S.  Still, while European economies may be a bit sluggish, which industrialized country is contributing the most to heighten the chance of a catastrophic shock? Isn’t it the low-savings, oil-guzzling, global-warming-denying U.S.?

This piece was very explicitly written against the conventional Euro-pessimistic wisdom—which one can read anywhere. But, we did mention labor-market problems at the start. Though one advantage of projected low demographic growth may well be that future European unemployment may decline.

Sorry, but data trumps anecdotes. Cross-national surveys of health-care quality—whether based on client satisfaction, expert opinion or objective outputs—reach the same result: the U.S. system rates below nearly all European ones. (Americans themselves rate their system higher on convenience, but nothing else.) The U.S. spends nearly twice as much on health care than other countries—over 10 percent of GDP—but gets little improved output. Most of the rest goes to higher profits, paperwork and unnecessary services. Most experts believe that only a single-payer system—perhaps while leaving the provision of services in private hands, as in Germany—can impose discipline. The profit motive does not work to discipline the system. Instead it’s part of the problem, because those special interests who profit from a system that pays 5 percent of GDP are immensely powerful.

Personally, I do not think the Euro is the soundest of EU policies, though it’s not a disaster. Enlargement is working well—generating 5 to 10 percent growth in the new countries, and profitable economic opportunities for core EU countries. Turkish accession would help, but it will not happen for 10-20 years.

Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, but not to their own facts. Three issues here: (1) Since the 1970s, social mobility is higher in Europe than in U.S.—that is, a European has more chance of rising above the quintile of the population in which he or she was born. The U.S. is no longer the land of lower-class opportunity—though statistics do suggest it is the land of upper-class opportunity. So you can take your choice, but let’s all be honest about the choice that is being made. (2) There is no evidence that the social-welfare state inhibits economic growth—though a mismanaged social-welfare state might. A good example of how to get the balance right is Scandinavia, which invests intensively in education, vocational training and public-service provision. Note that Tony Blair, often cited by conservatives as “our kind of guy,” explicitly models his vision of Britain on…Sweden, not the U.S. (3) One baffling thing about U.S. observers of Europe is their tendency to compulsively criticize Europe for things that happened 60 years ago. Most Europeans were not even alive in the era of mass transatlantic immigration, Hitler or Stalin, or World War II. A long time ago Europeans stopped criticizing Americans for 19th-century slavery or mid-20th-century segregation. Could Americans please reciprocate? Oh yeah, by the way, buddy, knock off the “you Europeans” stuff! I am a native-born American and, by the way, one whose ancestors fled both Stalin and Hitler—a fact of which I am not unappreciative. I just don’t think it’s relevant.

Thanks. Much appreciated. But I have to admit that I dish out a lot of criticism to the Europeans as well—not least Jean Monnet, who—most commentators these days forget—was a French statist (the French would call him a dirigisté) who desperately opposed the formation of the EEC, behind the scenes, because he preferred technocratic regulation to free markets. So, on this, I side with the conservative gentleman from Chicago above: Without the EU imposing free markets, European social-welfare states would be far less viable.